Archive for the 'Iran' Tag
I recently had the pleasure of talking to a Financial Times reporter about Iran’s appetite for small boats. The story, dealing with the saga of the “Bradstone Challenger“, a Bladerunner 51 speedboat, just hit the press today (and it got some love from Drudge (bottom middle column), so…good times). (.pdf here)
I noted Iran’s interest in the Ice Marine’s Bladerunner back in early 2009–in fact, I reported that the Commerce Department’s “stop order”, coming on January 22, was one of the Obama Administration’s first actions taken after the inauguration. But, sadly, bureaucracy intervened–South Africa mislaid the order, sending the boat off in the “Iranian Diplomat.”
“The loading went ahead because, said one source, no one saw the US notice sent by fax over a weekend. US special forces were ready to intercept the Iranian merchant vessel but the operation was called off, the source said”
So now the vessel has, reportedly, been militarized (or, more likely, is being reverse-engineered).
(I won’t bore you with this story’s nitty-gritty details–as fascinating as they are. If you are interested, go read the full post at NEXTNAVY.COM–it’s a rollicking story of international intrigue, politics and…Italian speedboats!)
But for now, let’s focus on the strategic question…Iran’s apatite for small boats aside, just how big a danger are Iran’s little boats? Should the U.S. worry?
Outside of surprise (a la the USS Cole), the small boat “record” since World War II fails to live up to the modern-day hype. Certainly, small boats are not things to completely disregard, but I do have serious doubts about the danger a swarm poses to a prepared US vessel. And, in the article, I said so:
“Though the US Navy is very concerned a swarm of small boats can overwhelm and sink a large warship, the hypothesis is untested. It has never been done,” Mr Hooper told the FT. “A small, fast boat navy is nothing more than a surprise strike and harassment force. Every time small, fast boats run into helicopters, the helicopters win.”
The proof just ain’t there. Once a fast boat swarm is identified as “hostile,” those small boats tend to lead relatively short, exciting lives.
In 1987, U.S. helicopters made quick work of Boghammar speedboats, and during the 1991 Bubiyan Turkey Shoot, helicopters helped sink or damage 143 small Iraqi naval vessels.
The trick, of course, is avoiding any losses as a “swarm” transforms from “traffic” to a swarming “attacker”…
And that might be a tad difficult.
Or…maybe not. Discuss!
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(UPDATE: Looks like the story is getting walked back a bit…the AP’s source, “A Western military official in Saudi Arabia” is being contradicted by Pentagon spokespersons–who say there was no launch of any kind.)
How, exactly, does one test a “submarine-launched ballistic missile” from Saudi territory?
“The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.
The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
Was this missile fired from a land-sharkesque Sand Sub? Did we ship a missile over for a launch from a Saudi facility? Or fire it from a sub elsewhere?
I mean, while this may explain why some Tehran IP addresses have been, ah, oh, rather avid consumers of my home-blog, NextNavy.com, I really wonder what is going on here.
What an odd story….If this missile launched from the Saudi’s sandy seas, at a Saudi launch facility, then…I must ask: Do we really want to export this kind of strike platform? There?
We need to know more.
A lot more–Did America conduct an unprecedented Persian Gulf/Red Sea/Indian Ocean launch….for a missile defense test? Or is this the new face of Prompt Global Strike–a little project you can read more about in April’s USNI Proceedings)?
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(*) Estimated. H/T: Warisboring.com
Last month Iran unveiled a new long-range missile, the Simorgh, as a follow-on to the Safir SLV. Putatively identified as a space launch vehicle, it bears strong familial ties to the TD-2 prototype SLV/ICBM launched last April (2009). Since then, some analysts have noted that while the airframe has made an appearance sooner than the NIE’s from 2008/2009 suggested, much still remains to be put in place for the program to reach flight test stage. Chief among those items would be a launch site as something of this size requires a much larger complex for support than the Safir.
According to press reports over the weekend, it appears that too is well underway and sooner than many had expected:
Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. The new launcher, constructed near an existing rocket base in the Semnan province east of Tehran, is visible in satellite imagery, according to the report. The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes. Both the missile and the launch pad, which according to Jane’s is large enough to accommodate it, point to cooperation from Pyongyang. (Jerusalem Post, 6 March 2010)
Firing up GE, we locate the site fairly quickly:
We are about one-third of the way through Iran’s annual “Ten Days of Dawn” observation which celebrates the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The occasion serves as a platform for Iran to boast about progress under the Islamic Republic and demonstrate military, scientific and technical prowess. This, despite the West’s attempts to limit technology transfer in key areas, such as missile technology.
Day 3 of the celebration is set-aside as “Space Day” and yesterday, Iran’s President Ahmedenejad had three items of note/accomplishment to announce that:
- Iran had launched a payload of animal specimens (a mouse, turtles and worms) into space and recovered them on a new research rocket named Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3);
Three new satellites were unveiled: the Tolou (Sunrise), the Mesbah 2 (Lantern 2), and the Navid (Promising Sign) and
A new space launch vehicle, Simorgh-3, which will serve as the launch vehicle for those satellites.
- Simorgh SLV
Of these announcements, the last is the most interesting and perhaps, troubling. With the ability to loft 220 lbs into a 310 mile earth orbit (if it indeed works), that would move Iran into a new capability category with a nascent ICBM. The implications for the US and allies would be the impact on the European PAA and near term planning for the global BMDS, all of which (along with the BMDR) were predicated on a slower timeline for Iran to develop an ICBM capability, 2015 or ‘mid-decade.’ Tied with Iran’s continued intransigence on the nuclear front (aided and abetted by China’s continued refusal to support a sanctions regime) this is one announcement that has little upside to it. Russia, at least, is coming into alignment with the US:
“Mutual understanding between Russia and its international partners on additional sanctions has clearly improved,” Kosachyov said in an interview with state broadcaster Rossiya 24 today. “The situation is beginning to alarm us increasingly.”
A successful launch will likely bring pressure to bear on the US to step up the rate of deployment and development of both the sea- and land-based elements of the European PAA, leveraging increased deployment time on units that are already HDLD in nature and turning up the burner on the SM-3 Blk IIa program. It may also cause a reassessment of the plans for the ground-based BMD system to see if it still serves as a hedge in its current configuration as per the BMDR.
The continued advancement of Iran’s missile programs stands in defiance of the MTCR, a voluntary consortium of 39 countries regarding the export controls on technologies central to missile development. Of course, neither China nor North Korea are members and they are among the worst of the serial proliferators, North Korea especially so in the case of cooperative ventures with Iran. Also neither China, North Korea or Iran are parties to the follow-on regime, the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. The enablement of this unholy alliance of proliferators brings us to the Simorgh. Below are two images, one of the boost stage of the Safir-2, which placed a small satellite into earth orbit last year. The second image is what is presumed to be the business end of the Simorgh’s first stage — a cluster of four liquid-propelled rockets.
Again, clearly it seems the Iran’s indigenous program is well underway in spite of these regimes.
The leading question then becomes, given the historical record of cooperative effort between North Korea and Iran, how related is/will be the Simorgh to the TD-2:
. . . and that, as the saying goes, is the $64,000 question.
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
(aka Sejil-2) Iran’s new MRBM and the latest complication in the brewing nuclear arms race in the Middle East:
WASHINGTON (AP) – The missile test-fired by Iran is the longest-range solid-propellant missile it has launched yet, a U.S. government official said sejil-2Wednesday, raising concerns about whether the sophistication of Tehran’s missile program is increasing. The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss technical details of Iran’s missile program, said Tehran has demonstrated shorter-range solid-propellant missiles in the past. Solid-propellant rockets are a concern because they can be fueled in advance and moved or hidden in silos, the official said. Liquid-propellant rockets have to be fueled and fired quickly, which makes preparations for launches easier to monitor and would allow a preemptive strike if necessary.
What’s next? Undoubtedly this only raises Israel’s concern over Iran’s direction and intent where nuclear weapons are concerned and if Ahmadinejad successfully stands for re-election (he faces three other candidates and the launch comes a mere two days after the election cycle began), it is safe to say we will only see more of the same from Tehran. Israel? Given the action versus Iraq and the Osiraq nuclear reactor, how long before Israel decides that the only recourse is a pre-emptive strike? As far as US actions, if there needed to be an underscore to the re-direction that US missile-defense research, development and deployment is taking towards greater regional and theater capabilities, this certainly would seem to fill the bill.
Comes word over-night of an apparently successful attempt by Iran to place a satellite in orbitusing the Safir-2 space launch vehicle (SLV). The Safir (“Ambassador”) was ingeniously developed as part of Iran’s growing rocket and missile program and has direct links to its attempts to develop extended range missiles in the IRBM and ultimately, ICBM range. Periodicity of the satellite, named “Omid” (“Hope”) is said to be 14 orbits in every 24-hrs according to IRNA, Iran’s press agency.
While congratulations are presumably in order for this accomplishment, one must step back and review its implications. Begin here – as we have previously looked at regional implications of a successful Iranian space-launch and Iranian intransigence on the nuclear front, especially where Israel is concerned. While one presumably successful space launch (still awaiting independent confirmation) does not a missile force make, the fact that the Iranian program marks this success, that it is outside the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and is known to have strong ties with the North Korean and Syrian programs, bodes ill for future proliferation schemes. As the US and its European partners gather this week to review the way ahead for continued engagement regarding Iran’s nuclear program, this shot, coming on the eve of that meeting and near the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution should give the assembled party pause to consider just what are Iran’s intentions, particularly vis-a-vis negotiated agreements and arms control.
In 1985, then speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Hashemi-Rafsanjani stated that acquisition of a viable ballistic missile force was a national priority and Iran would become “…a missile power second only to the superpowers.” As the primary supplier of material and technical assistance to Hamas’ rocket campaign against Israel, as a nation that went from zero capability to conducting operational launches against Iraq during the war of the cities in less than two months in early 1985 and now as one that has joined the handful of other states to have built and launched an indigenous space launch vehicle while actively blocking inspection of its nuclear program, Iran’s challenge to regional peace and stability has just been ratcheted up another notch. Not just Israel, but now Europe, especially the southern tier should and must be more aware of the implicit threat embodied in yesterday’s event.
From Norbert Brugge’s excellent space vehicle site are a large collection of photos of the Safir as released by IRNA. Note the size/scale of the missile compared to the nearby humans.
Arms Control Wonk has analyses of the initial orbital parameters as well as a graphic here and here. See especially the comments – some rudimentary (back of the envelope) calculations seem to yield a range of 2500 km w/a 1,000 kg payload (representative nuke payload).
Finally, apropos the significance of this event in the larger scheme of things, comes this observation in an editorial column in today’s Ria Novosti:
The first sputnik was designed to distract a government that was bent on nuclear arms development.
The effect exceeded all expectations, but that is a different story…
…things that make you go “hmmm…”